ALGIM Conference Speech

ALGIM Conference

Acknowledgements

  • I want to acknowledge Dean Kimpton, Chief Operating Officer; Marion Dowd, Vice President; and Mike Manson, Chief Executive of ALGIM for putting together a great event here in Auckland.
  • Thank you also to the Auckland Council for hosting us here today.

Introduction

  • Areas of focus on some of the areas that central government is working on, alongside local government, to deliver better local services and outcomes for New Zealanders.
  • Many of the Government’s priorities, such as improving and preserving the natural environment, tackling child poverty, and addressing the housing crisis, require close alignment between local and central government to achieve traction and improve wellbeing outcomes..
  • When I consider s better working relationship I mean:
    • effective engagement between communities and people.
    • a truly collaborative relationship between central and local government; and
    • Robust and sustainable arrangements for the delivery of infrastructure – including (digital infrastructure) services and place making.
    • And in a future state visioning what a joined up approach could lead to as an interface to the public service.

Central and local government partnership

  • Local government has a critical role in building communities and addressing challenges at a local level.
  • When we consider the challenges that local communities face they are varied: safe drinking water, local transport, moving to a zero-carbon economy, community leadership, engaging young people, regional economic development and representation on issues that matter to local communities.
  • Local communities also face other large, complex challenges such as climate change, natural hazards and emergencies, tourism demand, migration, and changing land use.
  • Local government is ideally placed to respond to these challenges; however, they are too big tackle alone.
  • This Government is committed to resetting and strengthening our partnership with local government to work more effectively in areas of common interest.
  • To achieve that is an opportunity to agree joint actions on areas of mutual importance.
  • We have established the Central-Local Government Partnerships Group within the Department of Internal Affairs. This enables a more focussed approach to policy and relationship work within the sector, including work on the digital local government partnership.
  • Events and conferences such as this are an important part of the process of building partnerships between and across government.
  • Sharing ideas and experiences is an essential part of the journey towards a prosperous and vibrant New Zealand.

Regional Economic Development

  • One of this Government’s key priorities is to build strong regions and primary industries.
  • This Government is committed to investing in our regions, to help revitalise provincial growth. We will invest in:
  • significant new investment in regional rail;
  • a significant tree planting programme;
  • roll out of rural broadband; and
  • other large-scale capital projects.
  • The goal is to fund projects aimed at lifting the productivity potential of a region or regions, leading to community benefits such as a growth in jobs, the improved use of Māori assets, and better mitigation and adaption to climate change.
  • Projects will be expected to add value by building on what is already there and to provide clear public benefits.

Three waters

  • Water infrastructure has emerged as an area needing significant investment in the coming years.
  • Our Three Waters Review has begun to uncover the scale of the challenges in meeting standards to maintain the health and safety of our communities.
  • We have started a conversation about water reform in the first instance with local government, water interests, and the infrastructure and engineering sectors. We are beginning to extend that conversation to the country as a whole.
  • The Havelock North campylobacter water contamination tragedy was a wake-up call.
  • Key recommendations from the Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking-Water included a dedicated water regulator and aggregated water suppliers.
  • Taken together, the Inquiry’s recommendations amount to a significant change in the way that drinking water is supplied and regulated in this country. The Government is working through the issues associated with the recommendations.
  • We will be taking some of these ideas to Cabinet in October .

Inquiry into the costs and revenues of local government

  • The costs associated with bringing water infrastructure up to standard is just one of a multitude of rising costs that’s putting pressure on local councils.
  • The combination of mounting cost pressures and a constrained funding system is plainly unsustainable into the future.
  • Many of you are dealing with the challenges of demographic change, such as the effect of an ageing population, or a decline in some rural and provincial areas, reducing the rating base.
  • Conversely, other councils are experiencing a high level of population growth and increased tourism, meaning a flow-on pressure on resources and infrastructure.
  • We are also beginning to feel the impact of climate change on our infrastructure and the environment.
  • These are just some of the factors that can lead to higher costs for councils.
  • I understand that a number of councils may be concerned about how to get the balance right between meeting these challenges with affordability for their communities.
  • We are seeing significant year-on-year rates increases for many councils and some ratepayers are struggling with the added expense.
  • The Government has asked the Productivity Commission to look into the drivers of these costs and how we can position local government into the future.
  • As part of this process there will be opportunities for public engagement and involvement to ensure a variety of views are represented.
  • It is important that we find a sustainable funding arrangement for local government and identify opportunities to drive costs down where we can.

Digital Disruption

  • As many of you may know, I recently attended the launch of the Digital Local Government Partnership. At the heart of the partnership is the belief that, in terms of digital transformation, more can be achieved together than alone.
  • Many of the themes from that event are relevant here – in particular the focus on improving our community’s digital experience with local government. 
  • As the internet and digital technology continues to transform our infrastructure and the way we live our lives, we need to ensure our communities are prepared to respond and participate in a changing digital society.
  • The digital era isn’t coming – it’s already here. We must all position ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities. The Government is committed to ensuring all New Zealanders benefit from the digital age.
  • Grasping the benefits of digital transformation will help improve the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of citizens and communities, ensuring everyone in New Zealand can participate fully in education, the workforce, and their communities.
  • A coordinated local government approach to digital transformation will help you achieve more than you will alone. I expect to see you unlock better arrangements with commercial partners; to achieve more innovation; stronger more aligned digital strategies and polices; and, importantly, a citizen experience that inspires trust and confidence.
  • New Zealanders are experiencing constant digital innovation in their daily lives and expect this to be reflected in how they can interact with local government.

Digital Services

  • It’s important we have a future-focussed approach to how we deal with digital disruption.
  • Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, automation and robotics will have a profound effect on how we live our lives.
  • This disruption needs to be managed. We must prepare workers with the skills they will need and manage disruption throughout the economy.
  • Government will need to respond to inequities arising from the influence of large corporates and the concentration of profits to owners of capital.
  • The Government intends to address these challenges and has committed to an inquiry into the ‘future of work’. The Productivity Commission will report back on what steps we should be taking as a nation to prepare for the disruption that digital technology will bring.
  • The Government is also committed to New Zealanders being able engage with government in an effective way that allows them to express their views.
  • Digital services must respond to the diverse needs of New Zealanders – they must be innovative and flexible rather than uniform and standardised – they must be human, accessible and relevant to everyone.
  • My colleague Hon Dr Megan Woods is pressing ahead in the search for a Chief Technology Officer that can work across Government departments to respond to the challenges that lie ahead.
  • The DEDIMAG (the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group), has been established to respond to a growing digital divide. One of its first tasks is to work on a blueprint for digital inclusion.
  • That blueprint will expand on the Government’s vision for a digitally-included New Zealand and acknowledges that digital inclusion is not static.

Closing the digital divide

  • As is the case with its general programme, the Government is committed to closing the digital divide.
  • The Government’s broadband initiatives aim to expand the availability of online platforms and to improve uptake, especially among under-served groups such as seniors, people on low incomes, and rural New Zealanders.
  • Many individuals among these groups are missing out on digital participation due to a lack of access and or a lack of skills and confidence using the internet.
  • I encourage you all to think innovatively about what you can do as part of your work as information specialists, to overcome these barriers and to improve the reach of digital services.
  • This is about new tools and platforms, and the character of online content.
  • Our communities have rising digital expectations – everything that we do in person should be possible to do online. Managing and maintaining the confidence of communities means delivering on these expectations.

Concluding remarks

  • In closing, I want to reiterate local government’s unique and critical role in building local communities and addressing challenges at a local level.
  • But I also want to take this opportunity to challenge you to find a collaborative, partnership approach to digital transformation.
  • I wish you all the best for your conference including the announcement of the supreme awards this evening.
  • No reira whaia te pae tawhiti kia tāea te waihanga tōna āpōpō!